Trade association representatives last week discussed top issues affecting the dietary supplement industry at SupplySide West in Las Vegas.
In their state-of-the-industry panel, the speakers commented on issues from country of origin labeling to sustainability. In two parts, NutraIngredients-USA will overview some of the questions raised pertaining to the industry's credibility as well as the regulatory issues affecting it.
Mark LeDoux, founder, CEO and chairman of Natural Alternatives International moderated the panel of spokespeople from the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA), the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) and the Natural Products Association (NPA).
Lack of sufficient funding for the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) was highlighted numerous times throughout the panel, with all three organizations indicating they are working on Capitol Hill to get more funding channeled to the agency.
In the interim however, they indicated that dietary supplement industry associations can help FDA monitor compliance through initiatives such as supporting the training of FDA field offices.
We can "…make our staff available to FDA and have an industry presence at FDA events," suggested CRN president and CEO, Steve Mister.
The speakers said this under-funding is making it difficult for agency staff to address any new dietary supplement industry concerns as they arise.
"They are so bogged down with importation right now," said David Seckman, NPA executive director and CEO, referring to issues of tainted foods entering the country.
On the issue of Codex, the panelists said they do not fear the effects of the commission. Initiated by the Food and Agricultural Organization and the World Health Organization in 1961, Codex Alimentarius is set to standardize regulation for international trade across food industries and countries. However, the panelists said this framework would not negatively impact the North American dietary supplement industry.
"The whole point is that if you meet this your product can be safely imported internationally," said Mister. "It is not about influencing regulations like people have thought."
Rigorous checks coming from Europe is what is holding up the hammering out of Codex, they indicated.
"The clouds are coming from EU," said AHPA's legal counsel, Anthony Young, from the firm Kleinfeld, Kaplan and Becker.
International regulatory issues also impact the dietary supplement industry via the question of sustainability. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is particularly relevant for AHPA, and Young said consumers of herbal products and dietary supplements are particularly in tune with environmental issues.
"AHPA is very active in CITES, and sustainability is something that is very important in those discussions," said Young. "We have a consumer that is a little bit more conscious of the environment and companies are going to have to take that into consideration."